Violent crime surge in London amid ‘significant’ cuts to police budgets

There were jumps in robbery, theft, violence, gun and knife crime in 2016/17 in London and police say the pattern is being replicated around the country

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Britain’s largest police force has recorded a surge in violent, gun and knife crime in what officers warned is a national phenomenon.

Scotland Yard registered annual rises across a number of serious offence categories in the last 12 months, following several years of falls.

There were jumps in robbery, theft, violence, gun and knife crime in 2016/17 in London and police say the pattern is being replicated around the country.

The disclosures will reignite the debate over resources following warnings from a string of senior figures over the impacts of further budget squeezes on forces.

They also come weeks after watchdogs issued a stark warning over the “potentially perilous” state of British policing, and lay bare the challenges facing new Scotland Yard chief Cressida Dick.

Statistics published by the Metropolitan Police show that:

- Gun crime increased by more than two fifths (42 per cent) year-on-year with 2,544 offences recorded in 2016/17

- Knife crime jumped by almost a quarter (24 per cent), with more than 4,000 offences involving blades resulting in an injury

- The total number of offences recorded by the force rose by nearly 4.6 per cent from 740,933 to 774,737

- Violence against the person crimes were up by 4.7 per cent while there were also increases in robberies (12 per cent), sex offences (9 per cent) and theft (7 per cent)

- There were 110 homicides – one more than the previous year

- Sanction detection rates – the proportion of cases where action is taken against a suspect such as a charge or caution – were down across a number of categories

As the figures were released, officers raised the alarm over a shift in knife crime which has seen the proportion of youngsters carrying blades who are affiliated with gangs fall from around a third to approximately a quarter.

Officers reported an increasing trend for youths in the capital to keep blades on them for protection rather than in order to carry out crime.

Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said: “Young people carrying knives are doing so for a variety of reasons including status, criminality and self-protection but only around a quarter are affiliated with gangs.

“There is a phenomenon of people feeling that you need to carry a knife to be safe. There is a lot greater sense that ‘I need this to protect myself’. The problem comes when you then get a confrontation.”

The Met has launched investigations into three separate fatal stabbings in the capital since the start of the week.

However, Mr Hewitt still insisted that London is “one of the safest global cities in the world”.

He said: “Similar to the rest of England and Wales, crime rates in London are rising, but many of these are still at a much lower level than five years ago and are against the backdrop of significant reductions in resources.”

The force has closed dozens of police stations and lost hundreds of staff as it made savings totalling hundreds of millions of pounds since 2010, although officer numbers have remained broadly steady at around 31,000.

Deputy London Mayor for Policing Sophie Linden, said: “These figures are deeply disturbing, and a stark reminder of the enormous pressure our police are under every day as they work so tirelessly to protect us.”

Meanwhile, a report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said it was satisfied with some aspects of the Met’s overall performance but warned there were areas of “serious concern” about its effectiveness that needed to be addressed.

Press Association